Introduction: How to Milk Cows
In this instructables outline, I will be explaining the steps of how to milk a cow. Cows are milked two to three times day, depending on the farms’ individual policies. But most farms milk their cows twice a day, once in the morning and then 12 hours later, in the evening. Cows in the past were milked by hand, but today, the process is much easier. The cows are attached to milking units, which pump the milk out of each of the cows, in the average time of 8 minutes per cow. Not only are the cows milked out by an automated system, the parlors are made to accommodate and milk out multiple cows at a time. The parlor pictured in my steps is a double 12 parallel parlor, which means 24 cows can be milked out at any one time.
Step 1: Load
The cows are brought to the parlor by the cow driver, and are pressed onto the decks and into individual stalls. Each cow has a space where she can put her head and have her shoulders rest against the brisket bars. After all of the cows are loaded into the stalls, it is important to check and see if their pedometer, which is located on their left leg, is registering. If it is, the cows number will show on the screen, located above where each cow is standing. The cow’s pedometers will also keep track of the number of steps she takes a day and can be accessed on the farm’s computer. This information can let the farm managers know if any of the cows are less active and possibly becoming ill. If the cow is not identifying, her leg can be pulled backwards, or lifted until the number shows. If the number doesn’t show after the adjustment, a new pedometer may be needed.
Step 2: Bands
Before beginning the milking process, the right leg of the cow needs to be checked. If the cow has a colored band on her leg, an extra step is required.
If the band is purple, this means the cow has a dead quarter. Use a plug to seal off the suction of one of the claws on the milking unit. If the cow has green band, then she needs a shot of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone which helps the cow to relax and helps her to let down her milk. Lastly, if the cow’s band is yellow, then she is being treated with antibiotics and needs to be hooked to a bucket, so her milk can be dumped, and doesn’t go into the main tank.
Step 3: Strip
The first step to milking a cow is stripping. Before beginning stripping, wear glows to prevent the spread of pathogens. Stripping is important because it stimulates the cow to let down her milk. It is also important because thoroughly stripping each quarter enables the person milking to see if the cow has mastitis. Mastitis is an infection that can occur in or more of the quarters of the cow.
Apply a clamping pressure to each quarter and pull down slightly until at least 3 good streams of milk are extracted from each quarter. Direct the steam of the milk vertically downward onto the concrete and look at the puddles to see if it contains any chunks or flakes, which would indicate that the cow has mastitis. If a cow shows signs of mastitis, she will be put on a bucket, begin treatment with antibiotics, and her milk will be dumped.
Step 4: Foam
After stripping and stimulating the cow, the next step is to foam the cow. The foam is like a soap to clean the cow’s teats. It contains antimicrobials and iodine, which gives it its yellow coloring. When foaming the cow it is important to fully cover each teat. The foam then needs to be allowed to sit on the teats for at least 30 seconds to allow it to break up any dirt and disinfect.
Step 5: Wipe
After the foam has remained on the teat for the appropriate amount of time, it is time to wipe the teats off. Use a towel and start at the base of the teat and apply a decent grip around the teat, then pull downward to wipe off any sand, dirt, manure, or foam.
Step 6: Attach
The cow is now full prepped to be milked. The milking unit has 4 claws, one for each quarter of the cow. Each claw has a line of suction, like a vacuum cleaner. To further speed up the milking process, the milking unit also contains a pulsater which gently compresses and releases the inside of each claw to cause a pumping effect. The front two claws of the milking unit can be suctioned to the front quarters of the cow, followed by the attachment of the two rear claws to the two rear quarters. Make sure the milking unit is attached correctly and hanging down vertically from the teats. The milking unit will transfer the milk to a weigh jar below it. The weigh jar of course keeps track of how much milk the cow is producing. It also measures the flow rate of the milk, once the milk is slowly trickling out of the cow, and the weigh jar detects this, the milking unit automatically comes off the cow. Make sure the cow is fully milked out by pressing the udder to make sure it is soft and supple.
Step 7: Dip
After the cow is fully milked out, she is ready to be dipped. This dip is also iodine based. It is important to dip the cow, because after milking out the teat ends remain open for a period of time, and this puts them at risk for dirt, manure, or sand getting inside of the teat end and causing a mastitis infection. The main purpose of dip is to seal the teat end and prevent this from happening. The dip also helps to moisturize the teat, prevent abrasions and skin infections, and also it can help keep the teats from getting frostbitten in cold weather.
Step 8: Milking Complete
After the cows are milked, they are returned to the main barn by the cow driver. Here, they can get a drink of water, eat silage, and snooze in their sand beds until the next milking session.